Friday, May 22, 2009

Spanish, Open Source, Spanish, Citilab

My head is still ringing from yesterdays onslaught of Spanish. The conference has no translation although Flavio and Alberto have made a big effort to sit next to us and translate but I have a feeling we have missed quite a bit.

Citilab is pretty impressive, a large old factory made into a technology lab that has as its remit a commitment to work with local citzens (that seems to much more of an empowering word than "community" which feels spoilt by years of soft touch community arts in the UK), conduct research, a conference programme, workshops and a huge amount of resources including large touch screens and arduino and lego mindstorm robot areas to play and develop. They seem very well funded and have only been going a year which explains some of the lack of organisation i have experienced and also the small audience yesterday.

The event is interesting (what I understand of it) and as often with these gatherings is held together by the high qaulity of the speakers. Flavio from Ars Games (I am learning not to giggle like only the english seem to at bottom, fart and poo references) and Alberto from Movilfest (a mobile phone film festival) are really interesting and knowledgable and are leading some very exciting stuff here in Spain. I didn't realise Spain spends the least money on culture in Europe and Barcelona the least of the Spanish cities, not what you would expect from a city full of sculpture, architecture and renowned for its beauty, music and well culture...

It seems the games industry in Spain has been stopped just as it was starting due to the economic situtation but investments such as Citilab must have great potential to support a new generation of innovators, artists and developers.

The speakers included Hernan from "the industry", who created a virtual world KTK with Telefonica, very early on. He has a Uruguyaun accent and speaks very fast and heated and i can't understand a word he says but he is also the vitality of the event. Yesterday evening involved pizza and a huge shouting rotating arguement about open source versus commercial enterprise, it was hilarious despite only understanding 20%, Leia kindly translated the key shouting matches and I attempted to throw some things into the bag, all in good humour. Being in Spain reminds me of my family and Jewish tempermants, the loud politicial shouting matches i grew up with so I am right at home.

Next was an interesting psychologist who is looking at game players behaviour, he did touch on gender but I felt he needed to make the gender issue much clearer from the start as you can't make general statements about gaming behaviour without taking on board who the majority of (video) gamers tend to be, mind you I was only cathcing 75% of this talk so maybe I missed this. One interesting point he made was about men's identity (and maybe more so in Spain) and the ability for men to define their identity in society is much more limited than for women, therefore they respond to the profiling, pretending you are something else, role play, play within games as a release of this constraint they have.

I was next and it seemed to go ok although my laptop failed me and crashed hopelessly half way through which made me speed through some of our projects in a vain attempt to get my flow back. So I think people were a little confused, i think it was brought back by questions and Matt Davenport joined in to save the day which was really good and nice to have a fresh view as ever of our work.

The final speaker was Joan Leandre who I know from the really inspiring Velvet Strike he comes from an old school hacker (although he says hacker has now been assimilated by the main stream) open source activist tradition but his research and work with shoot em up / war games is still or even more so incredibly valid and interesting. Had some ideas for education games based on real world events as a response to the horrifyingly cynical Kuma reality war games.

The day ended with a networked wine tasting event upstairs as part of an Innovate Camp for the Mediterranean. This is how I like my technology. Lots of very good expensive wine to taste, cameras streaming the event and laptops to twitter your views... and lots of delicious smelly local cheese. Heaven.

Matt D was exhausted as Kat had kept him up all night talking so he returned to Barca and Maria and Flavio kindly offered to pay for me to have another night in the hotel so I didn't need to cart my bags across town. They have offered to try and change my flights so I dont miss the conference this afternoon and I really want to hear Rebecca Cannon, creator of Killing Yourself and Artbase in Melbourne talk.

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